Awareness & internal observation
In my own experience, learning to understand and internally “observe” your own emotional reactions as they take place, without having the need to act them out is paramount.
In my own experience, learning to understand and internally “observe” your own emotional reactions as they take place, without having the need to act them out is paramount. I call this “Internal Observation” and it can have an unbelievable calming and relaxing influence on your entire life. A big part of it is finding the “triggers” that create negative and positive reactions in you and learning to disarm the negative stimulus from the reactions and create the positive and calming stimulus.
I think of learning these skills as the emotional equivalent of learning to read in the dating and relationship world. In other words, don’t go through your life emotionally illiterate and stumbling over every feeling that pops up and every person that acts out around you. Learn to read what’s going on with the people around you and identifying for yourself what’s important.
Daniel Goleman talks about the Emotional Quotient, or “EQ” (kind of like IQ but for emotions) in his book “Emotional Intelligence”. If you haven’t read it, go get this book. It’s got some amazing insights.
People often think that simply having lots of feelings means they are emotionally in-touch.
Being emotionally literate does NOT mean that you can experience and express any and all of your emotions at any time. Being smart with your emotions isn’t about taking the impulses and reactions you experience and indulging in them with little forethought.
It’s more like learning to have, as Aristotle said and Goleman mentions in his book, “the rare skill to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way.”
As I see it, becoming emotionally literate has several steps:
1. Learning to “observe” your emotional reactions.
As you start to pay more attention to your emotions and understand that they don’t require action, your emotions become another one of your “internal dialogues”, instead of a bunch of buttons for instant action and reaction.
2. Identifying how and why your internal dialogue comes up.
You’ll begin to have more control over what your internal dialogue compels you to do as you observe it more closely. You’ll start to see the common positive and negative “triggers” that set your emotional dialogue in action and how they come from your own dreams, fears and issues.
3. Learning how to honor your internal dialogue and make the best use of it for yourself AND the people around you.
What feels best for you isn’t usually what is best for you and the other person. When you can categorize the path in your mind into action-emotion-reaction, you can start to choose how to deal with your internal dialogue.
The more experience you have doing this with your own mind and understanding that everyone else around you has the same things going on for them, you’ll start to change your approach and get positive results.
You’ll understand that emotional context and positive motivation gets through and is stronger and longer lasting than almost any negative emotional communication and reaction.
Here’s an extremely powerful window on your emotions: A lot of what causes people to hurt each other and regret how they acted, is an inability to observe their own emotions and recognize them as something that can be SEPARATE from their behavior.
In other words, an emotion does NOT have to have an associated action or reaction if you learn to observe it internally. If you want to go really deep here, then in a larger sense emotions are just a made up internal reality in your mind, separate from actually “reality”. But that’s a whole different book.
So if a man is behaving in a way that hurts you or drives you crazy, you can choose how you want to react to it. You can observe the emotions you are feeling and use them to guide you intuitively and make smarter decisions as a result.